this assignment, I will be discussing the effectiveness of Forensic Psychology
as a means of supporting the investigation of crime. Forensic psychology is the
link between the psychology of the criminal and the criminal justice system.
Forensic psychology is defined as ‘any application of psychological research,
methods, theory and practice to a task faced by the legal system’ (Wrightsman).
Without forensic psychology, it would be hard to realise why the criminals
commit the crimes as it involves the analytic research of the criminal’s brain
activity, emotions and thoughts linking these to the offender’s specific
crimes. A forensic psychologist is someone who studies the motives and the
actions of criminals, this research is then applied to other criminals and can
be used in a jury.
2.2 & 2.1
US, top down, approach to offender profiling focused on the backgrounds,
personalities, behaviours, crimes and motives of serial killers. This approach
was started in the 1970’s by Ressler and a team of behavioural scientist who
conducted research into how sexually motivated serial killers are compelled to
commit these crimes. They conducted a series of interviews with 36 convicted
serial killers these interviews included the notorious serial killers Ted
Bunday and Charles Manson. As well as conducting interviews with these offenders
in prison, the crimes of these offenders were also analysed. The information
that the researchers gathered helped them to put the crimes into categories based
on their characteristics. The categories are organised or disorganised crime
scene and with the help of the FBI it was found that criminals who conducted
major crimes would then also be categories into either an organised offender or
a disorganised offender depending on the crime scene.
offender’s lives are fairly organised like the scene of their crimes, they are
of average intelligence and generally employed. They bring weapons to the crime
scene and their actions are carefully planned. Whereas a disorganised offender
would commit a crime as a spontaneous act of aggression with little planning
and fail to hide any evidence. The offender would normally live alone but close
to the crime scene they would be socially incompetent and unemployed.
problem with this approach is that it has limited use as it is only used in the
most severe cases like rape or murder. These severe cases are only a small
proportion of the overall crime committed and the top down approach would have
no corresponded with the overall menial crimes that are committed. Due to the
number of serious crimes being low it is hard to get enough examples to improve
the technique. Though it has been found to help to contribute to more arrests
in the more serious crimes. (Douglas, 1981) argued that it does channel the
investigation in the right places with 77% of cases. If you are aware of a
serial killer motives it would be easier to follow a pattern to make an arrest.
sample of people interviewed by the FBI, would have consisted of 36 serial
murders, this is not standardised and these people could of all committed the
same type of murder i.e. impulsive and so cannot be generalised. The research
that was performed with imprisoned offenders would have been better conducted
by using a range of offenders whom had left a range of crime scenes varying
from evidence, behaviour and weapons used. Canter et al (2004) argued that
analysed evidence from 100 murders and found a lack of distinct subset of
characteristics and no pattern. Putting a crime into two categories of
organised and disorganised is too simplistic and the accuracy of the categories
is too limited.
2.2 & 2.1
UK, bottom up, approach to offender profiling creates a bigger picture from
small bits of information and relies on a computer database.
profiling in Britain was very basic and standardised until the 1980’s when it
was turned around by David Canter who worked on the case of the railway rapist
John Duffy. John Duffy had committed 24 sexual assaults and Canter was able to
draw up an accurate profile of Duffy based on the crime scene. Canter was able
to pin point Duffys area where he lived, age and the fact that he had knowledge
of the railway system due to him working on the railways. that eventual led to
his arrest. Canters evidence of Duffy supported the bottom up approach and John
Duffy moved up the offenders list from 1500th to 5th
ultimately leading to the arrest of Duffy.
and figures from Copson (1995) produced a report for the Home office detailing
the effectiveness of profiling though there is little evidence as not many
crimes as extreme as this happen often so little evidence is available. In
comparison to the US approach the UK approach uses a more scientific method to
build a profile of the offender. Makros and Alison (2002) researched the data
of 100 UK stranger rapes to see if offenders with similar demographic variables
were alike in crime scene behaviours. After acknowledging this data, it was
confirmed that not everyone commits crimes in the same way even if crime scenes
offenders are similar would their crimes be similar? No, this is because
everyone commits crimes in different ways even if the crime scene is similar.
It is also difficult to make predictions. If you have a previous case it may
not be the same in the future.
of defender –
use of the jury system has a long history based on the assumption that a group
of representative people should reach an objective decision about whether the
law has been broken. Because the jury system lies at the heart of our judicial
system, understanding factors affecting the decisions they make and the
processes by which these decisions are made is of paramount importance in operating
a fair justice system. Social psychologists have conducted research into jury
decision making, and have considered how factors other than evidence might
influence the decisions that juries make. The study of real juries is prohibited
in the UK and USA, so psychologists often use mock juries made up of a group of
participants who are made to consider a case and make judgements about it.
(1976) During a mock jury a video tape of a violent crime being committed was
shown and it was found that black offenders were more likely to be given a
harsher sentence where as white offenders were likely to be given a leaner
sentence. A mock jury was used consisting of 12 people though using a mock jury
you do not get a true representation of real life experiences. In a juror are
more motivated compared to a fictitious case where they are less likely to give
an accurate verdict.
(1985) found that there was a correlation between a defendant’s attractiveness
and the severity of the punishment given to them by the jury. If a defendant is
perceived to be attractive, well dressed, clean shaven there is more lenience
from the jury compared with a defendant whose appearance is less respectable or
unkempt. Saladin et al (1988) used a mock jury and presented them with photos
of a range of men. The jurors were required to judge the defendant on their
capability of committing a serious crime like murder or armed robbery. The
findings confirmed that defendants who are more attractive where likely to be
given a leaner sentence than those who were perceived as less attractive.
is a very stereotypical approach and categories defendants into what is
perceived by them rather than what has actually been committed by them. By
basing the defendants sentence on their level of attractiveness their sentence
has no relation to the crime. Though using a mock jury to conduct these
experiments means that it is not representable of real life.
influences on Jury decision making –
looked at the effects of group pressure on the juror’s decision making by compiling
an investigation into the effects of group pressure. In his investigation, he
used an ambiguous situation and asked a group of men to answer which line on a
series of cards shown was the shortest. The group consisted of dummy
participants whom were aware of the investigation and a real participant who
was not aware of the investigation. The trial consisted of six to eight men and
overall 123 participants took part. 18 trials were conducted with the real
participants being seated at the end or second from the end. The dummy
participants would answer the question truthfully for the first few cards and
then they would all give a false answer for the remainder of the card. In 37%
of the trials the real participants went along with the answer given by the
dummy participants. This conforms to the group pressure that jurors may feel in
a real jury.
this type of investigation is unethical as the participants are more likely to
conform to same gender and it is biased as Asch only used six to eight men in
his trials. It would also be difficult to conduct this kind of investigation in
a real-life jury as it is someone’s life that is a stake.
behave in the way that resembles them and the role that society has given to
them like a student or football hooligan. Labels can shape the identity of
someone though some labels are more powerful than others.
(1963) argued that being labelled as a criminal is powerful so people are more
likely to follow that role and for fill the expectations of them over their
other statuses of father or husband. If people did not know you were a criminal
that power of the label “criminal’ would be taken away.
of the offenders would reoffend within in less than a month of their release
from prison due to their self-fulfilling prophecy. This Theory causes people to
conform to their labels that are given to them putting them at a disadvantage
in the decision making of the jury. Due to this labelling, even if the
defendant fails to commit any other acts of criminal behaviour their label
would be difficult to shift.
the overall effectiveness of forensic psychology:
at all of the evidence it could be argued that the UK, bottom up, approach is
more effective than the US, top down, approach as it is more determined by
behaviour analysis. Whereas the US, top down, approach fits offenders to
jurors do have too much emphasis on the eyewitness and this information can
sometimes be not very reliable.
way around the attraction to a criminal would be to use a blind court room
though some may argue that it is important to see the criminal, to judge whether
they were showing any remorse for the crimes that they had committed.